Eusebio L. Rodrigues, who has been at Georgetown University’s English Department, takes a closer look at Joao da Veiga Coutinho’s “A Kind of Absence: Life in the Shadows of History” (Yuganta Press, Connecticut, 1997), and finds the author’s search has taught him many things. Including the lesson that there is no single way of being a Goan. And that Goans were among the first to experience a dislocating sense of exile that is modern; and that Goans must learn to live without roots, and replace roots with horizons in order to see a world of infinite possibility. Says the reviewer: “I hope this review will trigger questions about what it means to be a Goan.”
Eusebio L. Rodrigues
Joao da Veiga Coutinho, a Goan whose inner depths have been disturbed by mysterious eruptions, writes ‘A Kind of Absence: Life in the Shadows of History’ to understand what is happening to him. He undertakes a painful return to the self he was, so that the act of writing becomes an invitation to a voyage of discovery. A shy sensitive seeker he will exhume his buried self, not to tell all, but to toss out bits and pieces that his reader has to put together before meanings can emerge.
These emerge reluctantly in spurts of meditations, comments, musings. They erupt out of a life that is deliberately not channeled into autobiography — that would be just a construct — but as an erratic, bubbling flow, a random quest crowded with questions.
It is a two fold quest. That of a writer who begins a search for he knows not what, one who sets forth to understand his Goanness, and who insists also that his reader come along with him on a parallel quest. He talks to his reader, but keeps him at the distance proper to art. He offers the reader insights but no explanations, compels him to experience his own hesitancies, his broodings, his speculations. Treats the reader as a kinsman, a Goan frPre, capable of sharing the experience and of understanding its meaning.
The journey opens with a meditation on history in general and on Goan history in particular. No generalizations on history are offered, for the writer will not trap himself in a definition. History, an ongoing process, involves time, and time never stops, it flows. Our writer is a Bakhtinian with a dialogical imagination. Continue reading